How did the Phillies arrive at a five-game winning streak, matching the longest mark of the season? Here are five reasons.
1. Research has shown that when an entire team is locked in a slump, they'll lose. Imagine that. Players rarely stay consistent through all 162 games and the Phillies house a bevy of streaky hitters. Unfortunately, the personal lulls were clumped together over exactly the same period. So now that they appear to be emerging from the doldrums, they've seen an uptick in production: more hits, more extra-base hits, more hard-hit balls, more runs and more wins. Although nobody in the lineup can be described as "red-hot," most of them have settled into a steady groove, including Ryan Howard, Raul Ibanez, Jayson Werth, Jimmy Rollins and a number of bench players, including Greg Dobbs and Ross Gload. Plus, they’re finally getting their feet back. (X-rays negative on J-Roll’s toe, but he was clearly gimping around yesterday).
2. Did Milt Thompson's ouster light a fire? It's hard to argue against it. It certainly appears that the Phils have been taking better at bats since Thursday, the day Charlie Manuel replaced Thompson with Greg Gross. Perhaps “GG” has the golden touch, but more likely, it sent a message that the offense is being held accountable for the Phillies backslide. It looked like amateur hour at the plate during their last roadtrip. So the timing and severity was appropriate.
3. Credit Manuel for the Ibanez-three-hitter lineup, his pseudo-platoon with Ben Francisco and the decision to sit Wilson Valdez in favor of more offense. As a result, the bench is hitting for the first time all season, with Francisco, Dobbs, Ross Gload and Brian Schneider coming through with big hits and productive games over the last few days. It also helps that the Phillies finally took out the trash by handing Juan Castro his walking papers.
4. The Phillies caught the road-weary Rockies at the best-possible time. Roy Halladay set the tone with a shutout in Game 1. Ubaldo Jimenez picked Saturday to pitch the worst game of his career. And in the last two games, Colorado fell all over themselves with crucial mistakes. Plus, Troy Tulowitzki was out with a fractured wrist. So when we talk about the Phillies’ win streak, it’s really what they did against one, beleaguered team at the tail-end of an 11-game road trip.
5. Starting pitching and middle relief tossed quality frames, offering a thumbnail of this entire season: Sharp for eight innings, dicey at the end.